WSBK: Jonathan Rea on top after free practice in Argentina
Jonathan Rea quickly got to grips with the new circuit at San Juan in Argentina as the newly-crowned World Superbike champion led the times in free practice on Friday.
The South American venue is hosting the penultimate round of the series for the very first time but there was little change to the script as Kawasaki rider Rea headed the leader board after a lap in 1m 39.914s in FP3, which put him two-tenths ahead of Ducati’s Marco Melandri.
Turkish rookie Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) had been in the mix throughout and ended the day third fastest ahead of Alex Lowes (PATA Yamaha), who had set the early pace in FP1 ahead of Rea.
Four-time world champion Rea is gunning for a remarkable ninth victory in a row in race one on Saturday (20:00 BST) following a run of four consecutive doubles, leaving him unbeaten since Laguna Seca in the USA prior to the summer break.
With a record-equalling fourth title safely secured, the 31-year-old is now focused on bettering his record of 556 points, which he set on his way to championship glory in 2017.
Rea, who has won 14 races this season, also has an opportunity to beat Doug Polen’s longstanding record of 17 victories in a season.
Eugene Laverty was ninth fastest on the combined times on the Milwaukee Aprilia.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Ducati) was seventh fastest, while Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) was 14th.
Next year, a revamp to the World Superbike weekend schedule will include a third race, which will be held over a sprint distance.
Race one will continue to take place on Saturday, but the shorter distance sprint race has been added to Sunday’s schedule and will precede the third race, which will be held over the normal duration.
It is the first time in the history of the championship that three races will be held at every round.
Daniel Carrera, WorldSBK Executive Director, said: “To bring in a third sprint race into the World Superbike format for 2019 is something we have been planning for a long time now, so we are delighted to see the plans coming together.
“We are committed to bringing exciting races to the fans year on year, and we think the addition of a sprint race will add to the World Superbike experience. We are continuing to work on the final adjustments and hope to bring more details in the near future.”